How iPads & Apps Can Help Autistic People Like Leo - As of September 2013

This is an outline for a three-hour iPads and Apps workshop I recently gave for the excellent San Francisco organization Support for Families of Children With Disabilities. The outline's backbone is consistent with many of my past presentations, while updated in several areas because things move fast in the iDevices and apps worlds. Case in point: the presentation was a few days before iOS 7 was released. (All I'll say about iOS 7 is that making things more subtle is not a great idea for visual people -- Leo is still having trouble opening his iPad, because he can't locate the swipe area. So while iOS 7 may be prettier, it's also less accessible.)

Oh, and I've also updated and verified all the apps & prices in our Recommended Apps Spreadsheet.

If you missed this workshop, I've got a couple other iPad workshops coming up, one local and one in the UK. And if you have any questions about the info below -- seeing as it is fairly bare bones -- do leave a comment.

Yes, iPads and Apps
Really Can Help Individuals With Special Needs

Support for Families \ September 14, 2013

Shannon Des Roches Rosa | www.thinkingautismguide.com | www.squidalicious.com
Leo tolerating post office lines and tedium,
thanks to his iPad.

Tablets: Tools, Not Miracles

  • My autistic son was instantly able to learn and entertain himself independently [though, ahem, less so with iOS 7 redesign]
  • However, tablets are not for everyone. Evaluate tables and apps before buying
  • Tablets encourage presuming competence by enabling visual and alternative communication and learning
  • Competence expressed and recognized increases self-confidence

Benefits: Accessibility and Convenience

  •  No cursor analogy – direct touch screen
  • Fine motor ease – stylus/mouse not required (and switch accessories now available)
  • So very portable (but invest in a good case)
  • Can replace backpacks – and cupboards -- of activities
  • App content is not static, contents updates are often free
  • Siri encourages independence and articulation (iPad 3+ only)

Benefits: Learning

  • So much more than an AAC device!
    (Non-dedicated device status = issue, less so with Guided Access)
  • Apps are organized, accessible, predictable framework
  • Apps break learning down into discrete chunks, topic areas
  • Learn without needing to read, including read-aloud books
  •  Learn independently or with support (but monitoring important, with any kid)
  • Incidental learning opportunities

Benefits: Social and Play

  • iPads are cool, they attract other kids – including siblings
  • Can support social skills, formally and informally
  • Custom story apps allow preparing for transitions, routines, meeting new people –
    or re-experiencing said scenarios
  • Face-blindness (common with autistics): labeling and other photo-content apps can enable associating names and characteristics with people
  •  Independent leisure time: Learning activities, games, videos

Best Practices

  • Evaluate thoroughly before buying: Tablets are expensive, apps are expensive
  • Get professional evaluation for AAC apps
    • Different systems work for different users
    • If long-term AAC use is expected, do not want to re-learn communication system
  • Get fully informed before upgrading, e.g., iOS 6 deleted YouTube app,

Overuse and Abuse?

  • What about study: “Autistic Kids Obsess Over Screen Technology”? [1]
    • Autistic adults say “Yes, we’re visual and very focused, why not explore how to harness these traits productively.”
  • Savvy kids can be experts, help other kids, mentor them.
  • For 1:1 kids, independent is good, not bad!
  • Valid concern for those who need support to manage screen time

When iPads Are Not in Your Budget

  • Go through insurance, school district – write into IEP
    • AAC evaluation
    • SLP recommendation
    • Research (longitudinal studies are ongoing)
  • Fundraise: Community/Online – it works! (Small commissions charged)
  • iPad Donation Charities – watch out for scams

iPad Protection – Insurance, AppleCare, Loss

  • All iPads come with 90 days of phone support and one year limited warranty
  • Insurance (3rd party): Protects against damage and physical loss
  • AppleCare: Service, support for technical issues, up to two years
  • iTunes remembers purchases, will let you re-download for free

iPad Protection – Cases, Covers, Other Accessories

  • Cases: Protection vs. Convenience
    • All-Purpose Cases: ZooGue, Targus, InCase, Shutterfly (custom photo)
    • Keyboard: Logitech, Targus, Zagg, Brookstone (can be bulky)
    • Protective: Otterbox Defender, GumDrop Military, Trident Kraken, Griffin Survivor

Apps Demonstrated

[1] http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/01/26/autistic-kids-obsess-over-screen-technology/34118.html

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